The case arose out of accusations that Texas officials had violated the Fair Housing Act by awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of white neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act bans discrimination “because of race”; Kennedy concluded that it therefore “may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping,” absent a showing of deliberate racial discrimination. The ruling is consistent with the Court's previous interpretations of two other antidiscrimination statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
A new and important restriction on the use of disparate impact, however, is that the plaintiff must show a causal relationship between the defendant's action and the resulting statistical anomaly; the bare anomaly is insufficient. If the causal link is there, the plaintiff need not show proof of state of mind:
A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant’s policy or policies causing that disparity. A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas.... Policies, whether governmental or private, are not contrary to the disparate-impact requirement unless they are “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers.”... Remedial orders in disparate-impact cases should concentrate on the elimination of the offending practice, and courts should strive to design race-neutral remedies. Remedial orders that impose racial targets or quotas might raise difficult constitutional questions.This approach is just about exactly the basis of Edith Jones's decision below in the Fifth Circuit, so yay, Edith, as usual.
Justice Alito mischievously pointed out that minimum-wage laws could rightfully be accused of disparate impact.